Big Church (Day 5)

Prayer. It is a word with many connotations. In my mind I conjure up images of sitting on my knees for hours at a time devoting myself to begging God for intervention in various areas. This is a very devout and pious image. It also makes me uncomfortable. This mental view makes me feel as though prayer is a chore; that I have to be sacrificial in making myself uncomfortable to make God happy with me. It makes me think that if I cannot dedicate time and energy to pray this specific way that I am not a good Christian.

This could not be further from the truth. God does not expect us to fall prostrate before him every time we pray. He does not want us to fear coming before him to the point that we do not pray at all. This is not the heart of God. He wants his children to come to him and spend time with him. He wants us to present our needs and our wants to him. He wants us; plain and simple.

My entire life (that I can remember anyway) my mother has worked for our local college. She is a Dean there and until I was an older teenager I did not appreciate how high her position was. The atmosphere in her office is very collegial and everyone in my mind always did the same thing. If you asked my mother, she’d say that’s the way she wants everyone to view it. No matter what she was doing (in a meeting, talking to the college president, helping students out, pretty much anything at all), she would drop everything if I called her.

I have this one memory in my mind of a time when I was sick and at home. I was not really in need but I wanted to hear her voice. I wanted to talk to her. So I called her phone. And sure enough, she answered. We talked and she made me feel better just by our chat. What I did not realize is that she was in an important board meeting with other high up representatives of the college. She did not waste a second leaving the meeting to step out and talk to me. You see, no matter how important those other things were, I was her child. It was never a question who or what was more important.

Sometimes we feel that God is so busy or has so many other important people to talk to that we are not worthy of his time. I can honestly say that there have been a few prayers where I was worried that I was wasting God’s time because he could be chatting with a president or ruler of a nation rather than my little insignificant self. What took me a long time to realize is that just like my mother and her meeting, I am God’s child and that nothing is more important than talking to me.

Consider this: we are so precious to God that he died for us. He left the glory and majesty of Heaven to become human and take on our payment. That does not speak of a God who wants nothing to do with us or is too important to speak to us. Quite the opposite! God longs to spend time with us and to have us bring our needs and wants to him. Don’t think I’m downplaying God’s majesty. God is the creator of the cosmos and the one who speaks and out of nothing matter can be formed. But this majesty does not take away from his love for us.

Prayer is important. It is so important that the Apostles dedicated time specifically for prayer. In the model of the first century Church we have seen that prayer was one of the five major ingredients of their success. The Bible shows us that prayer is powerful: it supplicated God to work miracles, to heal people, to cast out demons, to bring peace, and to restore relationships between people. Prayer is so powerful that Jesus took much of his time to pray and spend time alone with God (which is really weird since he is God, right?).

Today’s passage will come from the book of James. Remember that many of what we call books in the Bible is often letters that were written to specific people at specific points in history for specific reasons. The letter (or Epistle) James wrote to the Church was one of advice in times of hardship and persecution because of the Roman Empire. Believers in Christ were being martyred daily and being an obedient Christian was guaranteed to cost something.

In this environment, James (the half-brother of Jesus) implores believers to pray. He tells them (and us) that prayer is powerful. Take time to read James chapter 5. This will give you the context of these verses:

James 5 (NLT):

[13] Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. [14] Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. [15] Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

[16] Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

 

How does this apply to us? We see that in the first century Church that prayer was powerful and a solution to problems. We must begin to find balance between fearing God and undervaluing God. This type of fear is better understood as respect. We understand who God is and we appreciate his love and kindness. When we consider all that he has done for us, why would we not want to spend time with God?

Think back to our earlier lesson where you wrote down how you spend your time. How much of your time regularly do you devote to prayer? Is it just a few minutes or is it a mandatory part of your life? If you are spending time regularly praying then please, keep it up. But if you have not taken the time lately, make some time today. Begin to pray in three manners: during your quiet time, throughout the day as you work and play, and specifically take time just to be with God. God is like a loving father who wants to spend time with his children. We must make this a mandatory part of our life every day.

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